The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog dedicated to promoting environmental health, climate protection and chemical safety, seeks a comprehensive ban on the production, importation, distribution, sale and use of firecrackers and fireworks for the greater interest of protecting the public health and safety and the environment. We support a total ban as enunciated by top health and environment officials and supported by some lawmakers.
The massive detonation of both legal and illegal pyrotechnics goes against the basic state policies of safeguarding human health and the ecosystems as guaranteed by the Constitution and upheld in major environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
Specifically, we seek a tough health-based policy against firecrackers and fireworks because of these reasons:
1. Firecrackers and fireworks cause serious if not fatal injuries to users as well as non-users. From 2000 to 2011, the DOH recorded 10,107 firecracker-related injuries. Add to this the latest figures from the recent revelry as of January 2, 2012: 739 injuries and 1 death. These gory data do not include the 17 onlookers who were injured by wayward fireworks last December 16 during the UP Lantern Parade.
2. Firecrackers and fireworks contain dangerous chemicals and produce toxic dusts and fumes, including climate warming pollutants, that can aggravate the poor air quality and cause throat and chest congestion and other health problems, particularly for young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with asthma and chemical sensitivities. In fact, levels of total suspended particulates (TSPs) in Metro Manila rose to as high as 1,000 micrograms per normal cubic meter during the last revelry, way above the World Health Organization’s standard of clean air at 90 mcg/ncm.
3. Firecrackers and fireworks create thick smog resulting to poor visibility, causing public safety hazards and forcing the necessary diversion or cancellation of flights such as the two international and eight domestic flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last January 1, 2012.
4. Firecrackers and fireworks generate tons of toxic-laced non-reusable and non-recyclable discards such as paper scraps, cellophane and plastic wrappers that add to the mountains of holitrash (holiday trash), which are buried in dumpsites and landfills or disposed of in streets and waterways.
5. Firecrackers and fireworks produce deafening noise that can trigger anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, hearing disabilities, and even high blood pressure and heart attack. The ear-splitting explosions terrify and cause “acoustical torture” for animals, especially cats and dogs, who are more sensitive to sound than humans.
6. Firecrackers and fireworks squander hard-earned money that is better spent to buy food for the table, clothes and books for the children and shelter for the homeless. For instance, a box of piccolo worth P10 can buy 5 pieces of pan de sal for breakfast, while the millions spent for lavish fireworks can build public school classrooms and low-cost homes for the poor. In addition, the public funds spent to pay for the cost of treating firecracker-related injuries can be used to support primary health programs. Based on preliminary estimates, the national and local governments spent some P15 million for the medical treatment of firecracker victims.